Last weekend I gave a "Mormonism 101" talk at a local Protestant congregation. The audience was warm and welcoming, with the exception of one woman (who was not a member of the congregation, but a local who seems to enjoy debating Mormons). She had several questions, one of which seemed bent on getting me to admit that Mormon theology picks and chooses what it wants to keep from the Bible and ignores all the other parts.
I tried to generalize the question away from Mormonism because this is an issue that affects all Christians, not just Mormons. I said that all Christians pick and choose what parts of the Bible we will heed. There is simply no such thing as a fully "biblical Christian" today.
I pointed out that the suit I was wearing was made of mixed fibers from two different plants, which violates Leviticus 19:19. (Leviticus is not down with mixing much of anything, whether it's fibers or bodily discharge. Just so you know.) I said that as a woman standing up in a church teaching men, I was directly defying the apostle Paul. And to work on a Sunday -- which is essentially what I was doing in giving a PowerPoint presentation and having books for sale -- was surely a flagrant breach of Sabbath law.
The woman answered me by saying something about not being at all sure that a mixed fiber prohibition was in the Bible -- she'd never heard of that. Then she persisted with her original line of questioning.
"Mormons pick and choose," she insisted, "but I don't pick and choose."
I got a little sarcastic at that point. I noted out loud that her hair seemed awfully short, considering that the New Testament says that long hair is a woman's glory (1 Corinthians 11:13-15). Plus her head was uncovered, right there in church. Hmmm. Isn't not wearing a veil an example of picking and choosing?
And let's look at some of the dozens of other things I could have said but didn't:
- I eat shrimp and pork, which according to the Bible I should not; I don't eat locusts and beetles, which according to the Bible I should (Lev. 11:22). (As Buffy would say, "Raise your hand if eeeewwwwww.")
- I don't cloister myself or avoid touching men when I'm menstruating (Lev. 15).
- I actually think it's OK that blind and deaf people are welcome members of the family of God, and that they can even be pastors and priests. This is shamefully unbiblical (Lev. 21:17-18).
- I have a friend who is a Wiccan, and I have not killed her yet. I am not only suffering a witch to live (Exodus 22:18), but I thoroughly enjoy her company.
- I have also not yet murdered the many members of my family who don't believe in God or who worship a different God (Deut. 13 and 17, various verses). Their requisite deaths would be really inconvenient, because that's pretty much my entire family.
Actually, I'm glad that my interlocutor was so obviously not a Bible-believing Christian herself, because according to those Deuteronomic verses she should have annihilated me when it was established that Mormon beliefs were so very different from her own.
And circling back to Mormonism: Yes. She's right. Mormons absolutely do pick and choose which parts of the BIble we will heed. We don't say the Lord's Prayer, for example, even though Jesus was crystal-clear that that's how he'd like his followers to pray. We don't believe in a fire-and-brimstone hell.
But we also take some things from the Bible that other Christians seem to have ignored. We're the only Christian faith that performs baptism for the dead, but in 1 Corinthians 15 the Apostle Paul appears to have taken that spiritual practice for granted. He also spoke of three levels of heaven (2 Cor. 12), which Mormons teach are the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms.
So, Mormonism is a mixed bag when it comes to the Bible. So are all Christian faiths. Anyone who says otherwise is remarkably obtuse.
Oh, but there I go again violating another major principle of the Bible, one I actually believe in: "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things."
Damn you, Bible!
The image of the Holy Bible and the locusts you should be having for your biblical dinner tonight are both used with permission of Shutterstock.com.